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Friends with Benefits

04/08/2013

When I was just coming out, a gay friend, a man I’d known for more than a few years, met me for a drink one night to offer advice and counsel if I wanted it. A nice gesture, much appreciated.

We talked about all sorts of things and eventually got onto the topic of his relationship history. He’d been in two – both of them intense and long-lasting – and now that the second one had ended, he said he’d never be in another. Always the romantic, I was disappointed by this news, but given my gay-juvenile mindset at the time, the only thing I could think to say was to ask him, “What do you do about sex?”

handshakeHe replied that he had a couple of buddies – friends with benefits – with whom he got together occasionally as needed. Friend with benefits – an interesting concept.

But does it apply to men who, like me, aren’t in a relationship at present, but haven’t given up on the concept either. In that situation, what does one do for sex?

Well, there’s the one-night stand variety, sometimes difficult – especially for us middle agers – to come by, and potentially damaging in a variety of ways. There’s romantic dating that often leads to sex with all sorts of emotional complications. And there’s something in between. A friend with benefits.

This can work if it’s done right. There’s a level of intimacy that makes sex better than the one night stand variety, and yet there’s a sense of freedom that’s not available with romantic dating. You get some of the best of both worlds.

Will it work for you?

A couple of things to consider: Who’s the friend and where’s the benefit?

Is the guy truly a friend? Meaning, is he really available for an arrangement like this – with both its commitment and its limits? Will he tell you the truth if things change? Will he be discrete?  If he’s truly a friend, then the benefits will flow both ways. You both get something you need and want and that’s a good thing.

If you have a true friendship, and the arrangement is truly reciprocal, it can be beautiful. But there can be pitfalls.

Sex unleashes powerful drugs in the brain and if both partners are going to keep things on a truly friendly basis, they both have to be careful not to let things get out of hand. One person wanting more out of this arrangement than the other can lead to disaster. If it’s one-sided in any way, it can become the ugly step-sister of a rocky relationship. All the emotional bad stuff with none of the security. You can lose a friend as well as the benefits. This is one reason to take things slowly and make the sexual part of things occasional. Best not to get ahead of yourself.

In addition to guarding your heart and making sure neither party gets hurt, you have to make sure the arrangement doesn’t rule out anything else you might want. If you still see a long-term relationship as a worthy goal, then you have to be careful to be available to that possibility and not let the friend with benefits thing lull you into complacency. You could wake up alone, years down the road, not knowing where the time went.

So – does it work? It can. It all depends on knowing what you want and acting on that. Go into the arrangement with your eyes open, your goals clear, and your heart in check.

And have a good time.

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